A delegation of Vietnamese tea businesses and members of the “Enhancing export competitiveness of Vietnamese small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by local trade promotion network” programme (Vietnam SME Assistance Programme) scoped out the US market.
The trip was funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and implemented by the Trade Promotion Department under the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade.
According to Stephen Kreppel, an expert of The Nation Consultancy Ltd, no one in Europe, except those in France, knows about Vietnamese tea, and they don’t trust food and beverages produced by Asian nations, except that from Japan.
Vietnamese tea has yet to be mentioned or been mentioned only very briefly in Wikipedia or articles of foreign publications, which just mention tea from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, he said.
The expert said with poor cultivation techniques, the Vietnamese tea sector has failed to meet VietGap standards, highlighting the sector’s interrupted supply chain, unclear origins and weaknesses in packaging.
Nguyen Thi Hien, Director of Ha Thai Tea JSC, which won a silver medal at the 2016 North America Tea Championship in Canada, said many customers at the competition agreed that Vietnamese tea is tastier than tea from elsewhere.
Many questioned why Vietnamese tea has yet to gain a firm foothold in the international market despite of its good quality, she added.
Do Kim Lang, Director of the Vietnam SME Assistance Programme, underlined the need for Vietnamese tea firms to heed product quality instead of volume and job creation.
Wisal Hin, a US tea expert, said Vietnam has not paid attention to building its tea brand name or made best use of its advantages.
He suggested Vietnamese tea producers access the US via retailers and distributors, explaining that the US mainly imports tea from Argentina.
The most important job is to seek import sources and examine the taste of US consumers who prefer flower and fruit-flavoured tea, and place importance on product quality and origin, he said.
The US tea market also changes according to holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving Day, Wisal Hin said.
Apart from changing customers’ awareness of Vietnamese tea, it is necessary to improve cultivation, harvesting and processing techniques, he said, stressing that it is a must for Vietnamese tea to be licensed by the US and the EU.